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Thursday, May 31, 2007

the accordion crossover

Recently, pop culture has heard, whether they've known it or not, a major up swing in the usage of the accordion.

Take the simpsons clip, featured above. This clip comes from this past season, one in which many milestones were crossed. They aired their 400th episode. In that episode, Homer broke the 4th wall, looking right into the camera, a gesture never consciously acknowledged in the past. They announced The Simpsons Movie.

They also proved that even when episodes were somewhat written, animated, and completed months in advance of their air date, they were consistent with the social conventions of today.

The most subtle, and yet overused already, is the accordion. You'll notice that the real reason I posted that clip was to show the Dark Stanley narration, an homage to French animation today, and much of the multimedia world. One oscar nominated short comes to mind for me, a personal favorite called The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello. If you've never heard of this, don't feel badly. Just take time to check it out. You can visit the movie's offical page here.

Anyway, the writers and producers of the simpsons are no fools. Obviously this allusion derived from something. And to take it back even further, this isn't the first time that epic accordion track has been used to score visual media. Many of you may remember it as the theme to the film 12 Monkeys.

And to take it even further back than that, it wasn't just some song Philip Glass wrote on a passing whim for some director. In fact, Astor Piazzola wrote this song many years ago as part of one of the seminal Argentenian works ever recorded. The album, entitled Suite Punta del Este, is still regarded as one of his most influential works. And its easy to see why. Granted, it came late in his career, considering the man was born in 1920, but really when you think about it, 1982 (the year it was recorded live) was a long time ago.

Hell, I was born in 1982. Sheesh.

Many other cross over artists of today have also employed the use of the accordion. A few of my personal favorites come to mind, like Gotan Project. This group came into my world after their 2003 release La Ravancha Del Tango. The first time I heard this record, I was still immersed in Phish and The Grateful Dead. They were all I was listening too, and my sights were narrowed because of it. I didn't realize at the time that you don't just have to listen to one genre of music. Nobody's going to call you a poser, and in reality- nobody's going to call you anything. Music is to be listened to, appreciated, and studied. And the beauty of it- all forms and genres lend themselves to others, much as we're citing here. But this record was very progressive for me at the time, employing some loose elements of electronica or lounge music, a scene that has veritably exploded since 2000 thanks to OM, Guidance Records, etc. But when I heard it, I just couldn't stop moving. And there was an epic sort of element to it as well, something that made it feel signifigant. Something that gave it a place and time. Something that cemented my love of world music, and syncopated rhythms at large.

Years later, after moving to Los Angeles, I found this band (through the lovely folks at Pitchfork) called The Decemberists. While the first record I heard of their's was Her Majesty, The Decemberists, the album pictured above has to be the one that employs the most fluid elements of accordion music. And you can already tell, if you're not a fan, that they love the theme of the sea. Indeed, a lot of their titular notation, instrumentation, and even merchandise centers around the sea. Thus, their use of the accordion feels even more natural when we look at history, especially in a sociological sense.

In the days of intercontinental sea travel, sailors had to do whatever they could to pass the time. Music was often the muse of these men, as they spent much of their time liquored up, and singing in rounds. I assume. Anyway, that's probably where Row Row Row Your Boat turned into a song sung in rounds. They were just so drunk, everyone started at different times. The point, though, was that it was hard to travel with a piano. Guitars and other stringed instruments were troublesome as they strings could break very easily. So the natual progression was an instrument that could play both melody and harmony, bass and trebble. The accordion fit the bill perfectly. And today, virtually any shantey we think of conjurs images of drunkards sitting around, watching the waves roll by on their galleons, accompanied always by the accordion.

These are just a few of the examples that traverse history and the modern age as we know it. Funny how even a little clip on the simpsons can trace us all the way back to Pirates getting scurvy on the high seas.

And for the record, no I haven't seen Pirates 3 yet. I just thought this was a neat topic. Yar!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

five eleven 2007 follow up

finally figured out how to do this whole 'video on your blog' thing. In light of that, here's Nickodemus's "Mi Swing Es Tropical" from the recent ipod commercial that I referenced a few posts back.

Me on AD!

look closely'll see me in the left corner reacting to the ever so lovely Justine Bateman...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Clark and Michael

Web shows, webisodes, youtube, and buzznet. What does all of this really even mean?

Well, nothing until recently. For those of you that missed the initial online craze of Nobody's Watching, the Bill Lawrence helmed (Neil Goldman/Garrett Donovan co created) sit-com, then you're well aware of just what this internet does.

Recently, there was a new fixture in this ever growing chandaleir of excellent online content: the Happy Madison Produced Gay Robot, a pilot that never saw the light of day, but got room to breathe online, attracting several viewers, and proving just what kind of internet audience is really out there.

Today marks the beginning of what should become a major sociological shift to online content. One such series, dubbed Clark and Michael is not the first, but certainly the strongest 'intended for the web' shows that should take this country by storm. Starring Michael Cera, of TV's Arrested Development fame, and his best friend Clark Duke, the series is a breath of fresh air in this otherwise dying comedy market.

Please take time to watch the show, and remember- it's a series, they'll have new episodes every week! So make sure you keep checking in on them to see what they're up to.

I'll add the link to their page to the link them some love!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

five eleven 2007

Federico Aubele & Nickodemus

1275 6th St. was already in full swing by the time we arrived there. You'd never know it though. Shrouded in industrial complexes just blocks before the 6th st. bridge, the venue sat in the throws of downtown Los Angeles.

I'd never been this deep into the city before- never been to 'the cut' of the town as they call it. But from what I had heard growing up in white-picket-fence, white-picket-person america, I always had my druthers about going there. Misleading rap videos and partial knowledge of the city in my youth (mostly due to O.J., Rodney King, and whatever "crips" and/or "bloods" were) had painted a portrait of what I thought this place was. Now, months after seeing 2 of my best friends move downtown, I sing a different tune.

This was a little bit different than the loft and arts districts however, as even those simple descriptively functional terms can be misnomers in themselves. We were much further east than I have ever been, heading to a factory basement full of heads just like us, or so we hoped.

Upon arriving, we all paid our cover and headed in. Much to our chagrin, we were admitted and then stopped at a rope leading to the club downstairs. 45 minutes they held us in this make-shift bar/loft area. Someone clearly lived there. I could tell by the roller coolers of tecate for 5 dollars and the 'whatever booze we have & cranberry' that was served in smaller than airline sized cups. The place had the feel of 'The Pit' from PCU; dirty wooden floors, awful amateur abstract art and dim track lighting. 30 minutes they said, 30 minutes then we'll let you in.

So we waited. For a while, we wondered if we'd even get in. My fellow friends all shaking their heads, I could tell everyone was a bit peeved that I'd lead them on a wild goose chase for great house music, only to seemingly come up empty, downtown, and music-less.

Not so though! Finally, after a tumultous wait, we were admitted downstairs. And it couldn't come soon enough. After all, we had gotten an email about the show a week had to rsvp to get in, and it seemed very hush hush. But why then, had they rented a huge space, and wouldn't let the 30 of us get downstairs to join the fun.

Well, like all good things in life, the sweet is never as sweet unless you've tasted sour before. The wait almost served as a build in anticipation, hearing the music bump against the floor; knowing we were hearing Federico Aubele kick off his set with grooves that could have blown Arlo Guthrie away.

As we walked downstairs, I realized we were in for a treat. ESL never disappoints...almost every record I've heard from their label is top notch. And after movies like Garden State, virtually everyone is familiar with Thievery Corporation's song "Lebanese Blonde." A lot of their catalog stays in the same vein, exploring the subtleties in Brazilian, Argentinian, and Portugese music.

The general population might call that music 'world music' or 'stuff my parents listen to.' Others in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles may affably refer to it as 'sushi restaurant music,' or 'Is this the Girl From Impanema guy?' Not so...such generalities are what keeps this scene so small, so exclusive, and completely pure.

And that's the like that flows so well together, it almost feels like you're caught in a single moment; as if time ceases for just one second, and you get to revel in one little snapshot of culture. This night was no exception.

After a short while, we congregated at the bar, and the rest was history. Once Nickodemus came on, we saw a large shift to more dub based sound...maybe some palm wine or afrikaner with echos of spanish polka and reggae. Those terms don't even do it justice. But what did was seeing the throng of people- all getting along, all left in peace, and all there to dance.

The night, as a whole, will forever be left in infamy. My friend, and DJ to boot, said it best when he commented, "I'll never go to another house DJ in Los Angeles again." I asked if that was because he'd had an awful time, or it just wasn't his thing...

"No Scotty, it's because it will never be that good again."


If you're interested in either of these artists, or Eighteenth Street Lounge, here's what I reccomend:

Federico Aubele- Gran Hotel Buenas Aires

Nickodemus- Endangered Species

Nickodemus has also been featured in a new itunes commercial recently, which I've attempted to link below...we'll see if it works. Anyway, the track is called "Mi Swing es Tropical," and it's a hot tune...

enjoy, bro'k!